New Bibb courthouse sketch unveiled

mstucka@macon.comJanuary 12, 2010 

Like the current building, Bibb County’s next courthouse could sport a dome. There, in a sense, the similarities end, because the planned Mulberry Street building would feature more glass, more columns and a wide, curved entranceway, plans revealed Monday show.

Of course, such a building wouldn’t come cheap. County Commission Chairman Sam Hart said he hopes the county will benefit from a sales-tax vote July 20. That’s when taxpayers could agree to put $83 million of a proposed $183 million package toward the new courthouse.

The county is under a judicial order to improve court facilities. Judges say the existing facility is crowded, unsafe and generally unsuitable, although they did not explicitly rule out renovations.

Hart said Monday that the county’s “Plan A” is to build the courthouse with money from a special purpose local option sales tax. Plan B is hazily defined as a turn to bonds, which would add more to county taxpayers’ burdens.

While much of the sales tax money would be paid by shoppers and other visitors from outside Bibb County, Bibb County residents would pay all the costs from bonds.

“At this point in time, I don’t think we could build a courthouse without a Plan A,” Hart said.

Much of Monday’s talk before a meeting of three Rotary clubs described the general plans for the sales tax vote and the courthouse, which would be a four-story structure beside the Grand Opera House on Mulberry Street, running alongside First Street.

But the architectural renderings shown Monday were new. They show how Mulberry Street could be widened as parking spaces on the sides of the street were replaced with a parking garage behind the new courthouse. Like the current courthouse, it would be constructed largely of red brick. But some windows would span two or even three stories of the building.

In the current courthouse, many of the tall windows have been sliced in two by drop ceilings that obscure much of their splendor. Some smaller windows had been completely covered up until the ongoing renovation project, which is replacing them.

Under the county’s sales tax plan, the existing building would get a partial renovation that would bring county offices together. There would be room for the consolidation of some city offices as well.

Separately, a much smaller Juvenile Court facility would be built facing Oglethorpe Street, between the county jail on Second Street and the Department of Family and Children Services office on Third Street.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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